UrMusic Creative Research

"Theory is a Recipe for Style" (J. Tenney)

UrMusic Philosophy

Posted on 18 July 2018

“Theory is a recipe for style” (James Tenney)

egyptian-musiciansUrMusic Creative Research follows a philosophy of music that considers style a compounding of evolutionaryenvironmental, and cultural patterns of observationevaluation, and imitation that obscure the dynamicemergent properties of interactive gesture (body), acoustical space (environment), and neural entrainment (ear/mind).

Paul Ruston (director), September 2016

Paul Ruston (director)

Posted on 6 July 2018

I’m an experimental composer and theorist. I’m interested in the phenomenon of music to the degree that culture (biology vs environment) can be removed from the musical experience, which it cannot. I don’t believe in style, but I engage in it every time I create and think about music.

I experiment, explore, improvise, compose, perform, teach, and theorize.

My music is variously bizarre, noisy, complex; ironic, sweet, clichéd. I’m most attached to the ones simple at heart.

I consider myself an expert in the following fields of musical study:

  • phenomenology of musical entrainment
  • tuning, temperament, and intonation.
  • spectral composition:
    • just-intonation and microtonality
    • polyrhythm and phasing
    • vibrotactile/multi-modal
    • time stretching
    • procedural/algorithmic
  • critical historical analysis of musical style and theory
  • self-generative musical structures
  • harmonic analysis
  • gesture/corporeality
  • resonance and feedback

Activity

King Apparatus (ska, 1990-95); The Artichokes (rock, 95-97); Film/TV Composer (94-2003); Combo Royale (swing, current); Experimental Composer (current); Slaughterhouse 5 (free-improv); Frankie Foo (ska, current); Noiselandia (avant pop, current)

Teaching

  • Centennial College, Toronto: [digital audio, MIDI and synthesis
  • Ryerson University, Dept of Philosophy and Music, Toronto: [film music, popular music, theory]
  • Chang School of Continuing Education, Toronto [academic coordinator]
  • Humber College, Toronto [digital audio, theory (jazz)
  • Dartington College of Arts (University of Plymouth), Totnes, U.K. [composition, guitar, theory, digital audio]
  • King Edward IV Community College, Totnes, U.K. [guitar]

Mentors

Each of these individuals have had a profound effect on how I think about and make music.

  • James Tenney (1934-2006): experimental/spectralist composer and theorist
  • Bob Gilmore (1961-2015): musicologist
  • Frank Russo: director of Ryerson SMART Lab (music cognition)
  • Mitch Girio: producer, song writer, and bassist; long-time collaborator
  • Jim English: renegade producer and song writer

Influences (in alphabetical order)

Chet Atkins, Jeff Beck, Boyoyo Boys, Glenn Branca, Roy Buchanan, Ali Akbar Khan, Cheap Trick, Ornette Coleman, Claude Debussy, Frank Denyer, Devo, Duke Ellington,  The Faces, Robert Fripp, Mick Gooderick, Grant Green, Jimi Hendrix, Alvin Lucier, Harry Partch, The Police, Steve Reich, Marc Ribot, Terry Riley, Sam Rivers, Carl Ruggles, Erik Satie, Giacinto Scelsi, Elliott Sharpe, Igor Stravinsky, James Tenney, XTC, Frank Zappa.

VIDEO LESSON 01 – THE HARMONIC SERIES & EQUALISATION (E.Q.) (Architectures of Music)

Posted on 27 June 2018

Here I show the spectral make-up of ‘harmonic’ sounds (sometimes called ‘musical’ sounds, a term I dislike). Using a sample of a male choir singing a single long tone, the spectral components of the sound are revealed through a demonstration of the 3 basic parameters of E.Q. (equalisation), a studio tool that is used to shape timbre, or ‘tone colour’), which include ‘centre frequency’, ‘gain’, and ‘Q’ (quality factor). This is used to introduce the harmonic series, which will be an important reference point for many of the following videos.